On the national question in semicolonial countries

Nestor Gorojovsky nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar
Tue Mar 4 05:28:26 MST 2003

It looks like with my brief statement (re: East Timor) Jove let loose
a boulder in the midst of a peaceful lake, and some kind of a tidal
wave reached all the shores of the world's ocean. A few short and
hasty answers follow.

First of all, if someone knows of people in Christchurch or Melbourne
wishing to switch residence with dwellers in Buenos Aires, tell me
please. I can make good money in the trade, and we can make a
generous deal. I guess we could grab many people's savings here for
"relocation expenses" and, er, "commissions". It would be like
selling guaranteed lifeboat tickets to 3rd. Class travelers in the

Second, there are some misunderstandings.

a) I am not thinking, even for a second, that the Malvinas and East
Timor share anything more than being islands and examples of
imperialist intervention. It is not on these grounds that I am critic

b) I don't think "subimperialism" an acceptable Marxist category.
Generally, when we speak of "Indonesian subimperialism", "Brazilian
subimperialism", or "Argentinean subimperialism" we are siding with
the only true and acting imperialisms, that is the G7 and similars.

c) Nationalities (which have all the right to deploy themselves) are
not nations. It is a sorry issue that both words share roots and
sound alike. They are two different (I would dare say "entirely
different" things). One of the great confusions on this issue among
today's Marxism (and a confusion that imperialists make prey on) is
the mistaken idea that you can substitute a "nationality" for a

d) National liberation processes are centrally focused on the future,
not on the past or its heritage, like nationalities by necessity are.
Before, say, 1875, national liberation processes consisted of
generating the adequate geographical, legal and military environment
for capitalism to develop fully. This is the experience that spans
from Cromwell to Cavour, from the Pilgrims to the Meiji. These
movements sometimes implied coallescences (like in France, for
example) or splits (like in Germany, where Bismark was clever enough
to shrug the reactionary provinces of the Eastern Mark off the
shoulders of German capitalism). Sometimes they implied defence
against foreign intrusion (like in Japan) and in all cases they
implied struggle against those classes which, within the country,
braced against full deployment of capitalism. Capitalism being by
those times the most advanced feasible tool to further economic
growth and national power, national revolutions were by definition
bourgeois revolutions. But the ultimate end was to generate a state
which would foster the development of a new infrastructural support
for the well being and independence, thus military power, of the
peoples involved.

Same goals, somehow, are shared by current national liberation
movements in the semicolonial world. Since the arrival of
imperialism, however, national movements in the semicolonial world
are _programmatic nationalisms_, not _historic nationalisms_. They
must be understood with the eye to the future, not to yesterday.
While nations in the First World are something of the past, something
that (Bloom, reading Marx IMHO cleverly; also Mehring) the
bourgeoisie has stolen from the working class, in the semicolonial
world nations are a battlefield, a process of building an independent
state and of chasing away imperialists and their agents. This is the
basic litmus test. It is not a matter of "rights to split" or "rights
to coallesce". It is a matter of, concretely, deciding whether
"splitting" or "coallescing" work in the sense of imperialism or
against it.

I have _always_ been of the idea that FRETILIN or the Saharauis
worked, even against their best intention, in the sense of
imperialism. Since I had little information and one is always prone
to be wrong, I kept silent on these issues for many, many years. I
have never been asked to, but had I been requested to express my
solidarity with those movements and peoples, I would have done so IN
TERMS OF HUMANITY but pointing out that I did not consider a struggle
whose main target was the Indonesian (or Moroccan) government a wise,
nor theoretically justifiable, move.

The events in East Timor, IMHO, prove me right. That is why I have
made so cutting a declaration here.

e) Just to temporarily put a full stop to my declarations I will
remind our comrades of that great, not Marxist, but fully anti-
imperialist, Argentinean socialist when he derided those Latin
American statelets that by the early 1900s boasted their military
power against each other: "Minute Prussias --who import their
cannons!". This is a good question to ask: would an independent East
Timor be in a better position to build its own cannons than, say, an
independent Indonesia?

f) Thus, I am not blind at the suffering of the Timorese under
Indonesian brutality. I am simply stating that by choosing the road
of splitting Indonesia and not the road of struggling together with
non-Timorese Indonesians for a socialist, unified, Malay world
stretching from Malacca to Timor, a world where nationalities would
be fully respected because, among other reasons, they did not lend
themselves to illusions of imperialist-backed independences during
the common struggle against foreign powers, by choosing that road,
the FRETILIN placed itself on a wrong path from the very beginning.
That is why I gave the example of Goa.

It is not a matter of how reactionary and subservient a Third World
regime might be. It is a matter that, when splitting does not
strengthen the "new" state nor the "rump" old state in the struggle
to death against imperialists, then splitting is wrong. Splitting
Timor East is proving wronger each day. That is why, now, I can
bitterly say "Please learn from experience, comrades!"

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar

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"Sí, una sola debe ser la patria de los sudamericanos".
Simón Bolívar al gobierno secesionista y disgregador de
Buenos Aires, 1822
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